An investment banker named Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhaal) has everything one in his field might hope to have. Success, a home that's picture perfect and the trophy wife. In a twist of fate, she passes away in a tragic accident and in the aftermath, Davis loses it. He pens a bizarre complaint letter to a vending machine company, for instance. But amidst all the mess, a sliver of salvation begins to bloom for him, when he forms an unlikely connection with Karen (Watts), a customer service agent. But in order to progress, he must first demolish all edifices of the past.
Jake Gyllenhaal seems to have a penchant for playing characters that are damaged, yet wily and with a strong sense of self-assurance. Nightcrawler was a prime example of that and now, to a lesser extent, Demolition sees him stepping into the quirky role of Davis' character. And what a character he is. Intense, yet not without a sense of self-irony and humour, bordering on parody.
Jake's visage itself seems to be built for playing someone who is of a brooding sort. And then there are metaphors. The candies that get caught in the ding machine, for example, depriving him of that momentary sugar rush, can be extrapolated into his own machine-like existence that has been hit by an unexpected glitch. Except that Davis cannot write to a customer service rep to get his wife back. He can however, address a faulty machine. But as a character study, Davis has taken a temporary vacation from the world of the sane. Understandable though, but watching him try not to choke on the ashes of a tragic memory can make for some uncomfortable viewing.
There is also a discernible sense of survivor's guilt that Davis experiences. And it's not hard to figure out why. After all, he was in the car with his wife when they were broadsided. Yet, he emerged unscathed, and unharmed, on the outside at least. Watts' Karen is quite a character too. Plenty of metaphors - some unnecessary - but decent fare, on the whole.